Number Portability

Published: 3 April 2023
Last updated: 3 April 2023

Number portability is a regulated facility which allows customers to keep their numbers when changing provider.

This fosters consumer choice and supports effective competition by removing barriers to switching – being able to keep your number may impact your decision to change provider.

United Kingdom

Powers to enable Ofcom to set conditions requiring communications providers to provide number portability are set out in sections 51 and 58 of the Communications Act 2003 (the "Act").

Ofcom sets out the rules which communications providers must follow when customers request to take their landline or mobile number(s) with them when changing provider in General Condition B3 ("Number Portability") and C7 ("Switching").

Ofcom has powers to enforce any breach of that Condition under sections 94 to 103 of the Act. Civil liability for breach of that Condition could also arise, but Ofcom must first give a consent for the bringing of such civil proceedings under section 104 of the Act.

A broader industry community supports Ofcom’s number portability policies and regulations. Important industry bodies include:

NICC – is a technical forum for the UK communications sector that develops interoperability standards for public communications networks and services in the UK. Ofcom participates in the forum as an observer member. Relevant NICC publications include technical service descriptions for geographic, non-geographic and mobile number portability.

OTA2 – the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator is an independent organisation tasked by Ofcom to oversee co-operation between communications providers and enable a competitive environment in the telecommunications sector. OTA2 publishes best practice guides including the hosting of industry process documentation (e.g. processes for establishing a portability service, handling orders for number portability and associated service levels) for geographic and non-geographic number porting.

MNP OSG – the Mobile Number Portability Operator Steering Group is an unincorporated association which provides a forum for its members to meet and agree practical, technological and procedural arrangements to provide mobile number portability. The OSG publishes process and other documentation concerned with the provision of mobile number portability.

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